Children With Sleep Apnea At Risk Of Developing Depression, Anxiety & Suicidal Thoughts

By Olivia Reese, Parent Herald November 08, 04:00 am
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Experts found that sleep apnea increases children's risks of developing depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. Certain kids are more likely to have sleep apnea.
(Photo : John Moore/Getty Images)

Children with sleep apnea may be facing more serious health dangers as they grow up. Experts found that sleep apnea increases kids' chances of developing depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

Sleep apnea is a common disorder characterized by "one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep," according to the National Institutes of Health. Pauses in breathing can last for a few seconds or minutes and can occur 30 times or more per hour. A loud snort or a choking sound signals the breathing's return to a normal pace.

The condition disrupts a person's sleep and leaves them tired throughout the day. Sleep apnea is also blamed for excessive daytime sleepiness.

Dr. Carole Marcus, the director of the Sleep Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, said that certain children are more likely to have sleep apnea. Those are kids who are overweight, in the autism spectrum, have Down syndrome and have neurodevelopmental conditions, Fox News listed.

A New York man, who asked to be called as John, used to grapple with depression, severe anxiety and suicidal thoughts when he was a teenager. His doctors put him in medications and both inpatient and outpatient therapy. John also underwent 15 sessions of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and consulted with Dr. Avram R. Gold, the medical director of the department of medicine's Sleep Disorders Center at Stony Brook University.

Gold diagnosed John with sleep apnea and implanted a palate expander in him. Since then, John's sleep and energy improved. He even shed around 40 pounds from his weight, lost his depression and discontinued his ECT treatments.

As for the reason behind the link between sleep apnea and depression, experts said it's because of the consequences of poor quality of sleep. Behavior, concentration, moods and memory are affected and low oxygen levels in the body impact the brain's hormones, which then lead to depression.

Children with sleep apnea may sleep in unusual positions (while sitting up or with the neck overextended), according to Sleep Education. Other indicators of sleep apnea among kids are bed wetting, sleep terrors, sweating a lot while sleeping and having headaches in the morning.

Children with sleep apnea tend to breathe through their mouth, which makes them vulnerable to recurrent infections of the upper respiratory tract. They also have large tonsils that make swallowing difficult -- a condition called dysphagia.

Aside from depression, anxiety and suicidal tendencies, untreated sleep apnea in children can result in aggressive behavior, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), poor school performance and developmental delays. There's an increased risk of high blood pressure as well.

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